Academic journal article The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences

Understanding Fiscal Responsibility Project Team

Academic journal article The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Sciences

Understanding Fiscal Responsibility Project Team

Article excerpt

Understanding Fiscal Responsibility Project Team. (2015). Understanding Fiscal Responsibility. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Illinois social studies teachers face significant challenges in working to meet the recent State requirement for a semester-long civics curriculum designed to,

help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and
attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible
citizens throughout their lives. Civics course content shall focus on
government institutions, the discussion of current and controversial
issues, service learning, and simulations of the democratic process.
("Illinois School Code," n.d.)

One of the challenges is finding lesson materials that address government institutions in ways that allow students to engage with the controversial aspects of those institutions and the policies implemented through them. The Understanding Fiscal Responsibility (Understanding Fiscal Responsibility Project Team, 2015) (UFR) materials published by the Center for Economic Education provide a useful set of lesson plans that specifically highlight federal government institutions in ways that promote critical analysis. Students examine competing ideologies, personal and collective values, and budget priorities. These materials provide teachers with vetted resources and questioning sequences, as well as extension and homework activities. The UFR content is both vitally important to students' future civic lives and currently underrepresented in K-12 curricula.

To assist teachers in determining the extent that these materials may be valuable for their classrooms, we review the background of the UFR project; the content and pedagogy of the lessons in terms of scaffolding, activities, and resources; and issues for teachers to consider when adopting these materials for their classrooms.


The UFR materials were developed by teachers and researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University and funded by a grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. They are available on the website. The lessons were field tested in high schools in multiple locations around the country prior to being published in their current form. (1)

The 15 UFR lessons are not designed as a complete curriculum for a semester-long course, but can serve as helpful supplements to traditional history, government, economics, or current events courses that are tasked with addressing the new requirements. They can be used in sequence, or individual lessons may be selected to supplement work in survey courses. The lessons provide opportunities for students to evaluate the goals, trade-offs, and values inherent in debates over Social Security, Medicare, and national security, while considering broader issues, such as national debt and budget deficits. These materials thus address controversial issues related to government institutions and economic policy that frequently go unexamined critically in secondary curricula.

Understanding Fiscal Responsibility Lessons

* Social Security and the National Debt

* Social Security, Governance, and the National Debt

* The History of Social Security

* Medicare and the National Debt

* Medicare, Governance, and the National Debt

* The History of Medicare

* The Economics of National Security

* National Security Goals, the Federal Budget, and the National Debt

* Political Beliefs and the Federal Budget

* Balancing the Federal Budget

* The Federal Reserve System: Overview Lesson

* The Panic of 1893 and the Election of 1896

* President Jackson and the Veto of the Second National Bank

* Rhetoric

Each lesson is framed with an essential question. For example, the Social Security and the National Debt lesson asks, "What costs and benefits are we willing to accept to ensure the benefits of income security to Social Security recipients? …

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